Californication

The after-burn decompression in the default world. It isn't as hard as I expected. Probably because life is a road trip from festival to festival, while soaking up all the beauty in between. The desert roads, mountain puff puff pass, sunlit afternoons of sweating on the steering wheel. An old rusty truck named The Beast doesn't need fancy things like air conditioning. Friends laughed when I got her, six months ago: my new home on wheels. She plays tapes like no one else does and always smells like a festival but that's alright. My ultimate road trip buddy. "I'm going to drive her to Mexico!" I smiled and on Vancouver Island, everyone smiled too. "You'll be lucky to get her to Nanaimo", a mechanic in Cumberland said. I found another mechanic and half a year later I'm in Santa Cruz.

Today one of the tires exploded and within 5 minutes, three people pulled over to help me change the tire. America! You rock! No matter what I do or where I go, most of the time I feel like I'm in a movie here. Open roads through desert void, once in a while: a mountain. When the yawning starts, the coffee stops. Plastic diners with waitresses pouring the black gold in bottomless cups. Pot of coffee back on the heater to keep it warm for 24 hours. Spanish and English stories on either side of my ears. I'm in California. The drive from Nevada to San Francisco was a long one, stuck in traffic on labor day. The sweating broke the record of all the sweat I ever sweated. Napping by a river bed on the side of the road, one man telling me: "this is not a safe place to sleep, there are predators here."

Driving over the Golden Gate bridge, seeing the city in the full moon light as in a dream. I'm here. No flowers in my hair, but dust aplenty. I roll around in memories of Burning Man highs, that will do. I walk through Haight street, see pictures of Janis Joplin and nostalgia of the Summer of Love. I close my eyes and smell it. "You can walk around naked here," my friend Lisa tells me,"but men have to wear a sock." I love San Francisco.

Oakland had a night planned out for me. Dressed up as a Sunday, I rolled in, washing the sweat from my face. City traffic makes me bite my nails. The taste of metal in my mouth, I forgot to sing along to radio songs but my eyes were dry. All that focus. "Take everything out of your car", my friend says. I panic, "I can't." There are blankets and clothes and food and books and all the things you would have in your house. My car is my house. I covered everything with a sheet and it looked like two people were sleeping in the back.

I jumped in his airconditioned car and looked at the lake, he took me the scenic route. Secret jazz show in an old building, with ballrooms and chandeliers. People still in Sunday Church outfits, hats and gloves, heels and ties. I sipped a martini with one pinky up, trying to figure out how fast I could get to the olive. Class. It's just not me. Grandma's soul food was served. Fried catfish, beans, potato salad. Pictures covering the walls: the owner with famous people. Same smile, different crush. We bought earplugs and headed for the loudest little bluesbar in town. Ladies dancing, fan in one hand, man in the other. Dancing or not, sweat was dripping no matter what. Drinking cold beers in one big gulp, not even trying to show class at this point, just trying to cool down from the inside out. I dance and one lady comes up to me, points at my friend and whispers in my ear: "he's a keeper, that one." I laugh and the next one taps my back: "pull your jump suit down a bit girl, show us your shoulders!" Women in big sparkly church dresses love to give advice. I did what she told me but didn't keep the man.

Santa Cruz was next. I had gone and came back for more. Some unsolved business, a new spare tire and a man who writes poetry. All bars closed, even the Irish pub where we read each other poems until we got kicked out. We walked on the wharf and watched seals sleeping on top of each other, slithering the night away. One had a crazy dream, accidentally pushing another one in the water and that was the start of a riot. I laughed and decided right then and there I might stay for a while.

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